When I first started IT Consulting in August 1999 I encouraged clients to keep dynamic content on websites to drive traffic. I tried to follow my own advice by writing daily journal entries until 2002. Nowadays, my "blog" is a less frequent collection of thoughts while traveling as an SAP Consultant.
I only started wearing western boots 5 years ago. When we moved to Texas my wife very keenly guided me to getting a pair of good Lucchese 2000 T3203 boots knowing that I would find plenty of opportunities to wear them, and that I would wear them hard and frequently. I had no idea of all this at the time, and was skeptical about spending that much money on a pair of shoes. But looking at it now, for a first pair of boots, you actually get far better bang for the buck buying something that will stand up to the wear and tear of being your only pair of boots, which they were to me for years. Plus, I didn't take care of them particularly well, but have still put about 10,000 hours in them now wearing them all day in and out of work, and have grown to like how comfortable they are. When I drop my son off at school on the way to the office, I don't even hesitate to play basketball wearing them.
The Justin Utah Hybred WK4644 boots are for working around the ranch. The deep V scallop makes it easy to get them on and off multiple times in a short period when coming in and out of the house. The construction and materials seem to hold up well to the usual adventures here, like being stomped on by cattle or having blood splattered on. I like the traditional look of the narrow round toe over the chunky look that most work boots have.
I acquired Tony Lama 3R RR1002 boots during vacation last month, when I realized that I can enjoy wearing boots more often if I fill the gap in my selection between the two extremes of work boots and dress shoes. I wear these when I need to go into town and want to wear something nicer than dirty work boots. They have a comfortable, snug fit for wearing all day. I even had to go a half size up since I couldn't get my right foot through the vamp of my usual size. I like the efforts put into some of the details on these boots, such as the look of the 3/4 welt, even though it has a rubber sole.
Dan Post Milwaukee DP2110R boots fill in for situations where I am wearing black pants. Getting another pair of Luccheses in black was an option that I considered, but I didn't feel like getting two things that are almost the same. In my wanderings in the chain boot stores I came across these Chinese hand made boots. They have the leather sole, 3/4 welt, pegged at the belt like you should expect in a dress boot, all for half the price of the equivalent product made in the US or Mexico. I am generally skeptical of long term quality and durability of the workmanship these, but it is probably fine for a boot that sees only occasional wear.
Olathe TT2 254217 boots are my new look for the office this year. I had been driving by South Texas Tack for months and I finally stopped in this month to discover what I had been missing this whole time. I walked out with a pair from what appears to be a custom run of American made Olathe boots based on their TT2 design. Among other distinctive elements, they have the new O toe with the overhang over the welt. This is a nice departure from the popular "wide square toe" that I feel looks too chunky for the office. The heavy leather wraps the feet comfortably all day, and the shafts wrap closer to the calves than the usual buckaroo for a slimmer look under pant legs.
Good For: Refreshing minimalism. It has been a decade since I have driven a vehicle without power mirrors. Thanks to the Yaris, I got a refresher on all the little unnecessary features that become standard on even the cheapest cars now, adding weight and complexity. It's really not that hard to push the mirror in place just like you would the interior mirror. The steering wheel is just a steering wheel. If you want to change the radio volume then you will have to touch the radio. And it is a fine radio for an entry level car, complete with a big touch-screen, Bluetooth, iPod controls, and HD Radio. Windshield wiper? Only one blade needed.
Compromises: The only thing missing is a minimalist manual transmission, which seems to have disappeared from the entire 5-door lineup for 2016. Instead, we just have an old 4-speed automatic. It responds well and performs just like a good ol' 4L60, and is even reasonably fuel efficient. The price is also not very minimalist: $15,995 for a car that doesn't even have a remote or cruise control.
Overall reaction - None: The Yaris is Toyota's entry level vehicle. To me, Kias and the Nissan Versa offer more car for less money, but consumers may find the general feeling of higher quality worth the Toyota premium. At minimum, it is worth noting that even Toyota's cheapest car is efficient with interior space and will accomodate 4 adults.
Good For: Good for what? Good Question. The VQ35DE sings when you open her up, but is there really anything that this minivan is particularly good at?
Compromises: The tall vehicle looks big, but why is it not as spacious inside as the Sienna and Sedona? Handling is pretty sketchy. Why did it feel like the struts were blown already with only 29k miles on the clock? Rental car abuse might be the answer, but is it worth noting that this is the first rental I have ever driven with this problem? This is the only van with a CVT, but does the thirsty VQ35DE ruin any potential efficiency gains?
Overall reaction - Thumb down: The Quest is not particularly lacking in equipment, with typical minivan features like three zone climate control, power sliding doors, and Bluetooth. But it is not as good at being a van as the others I have driven, which get the job done better.
Friday, 20th of November, 2015
Wednesday, 18th of November, 2015
Monday, 16th of November, 2015
Sunday, 15th of November, 2015
Wednesday, 11th of November, 2015
Thursday, 5th of November, 2015
Good For: Proper touch screen laptop. Touch screens are becoming more common on laptops now, but most of them tend to be retrofits of a regular laptop form factor, preventing them from ever being used like a tablet in the most mobile situations. Most manufacturers have been offering detachable keyboards to present hybrid laptop/tablet solutions, but the Yoga saves you from working every day on a laptop that is designed to break into two pieces. The first unique Yoga move is the double-jointed hinge, which allows you to fold the screen so it is flipped all the way against the bottom of the laptop. It's a simple way to convert a laptop to a tablet, except the keyboard is now on the bottom. How do you prevent the keyboard from getting hammered with inputs from all the things that touch the bottom of a tablet, like fingers and table surfaces? The second Yoga move is a keyboard frame that lifts and physically locks out the action. All this adds up to a laptop form factor that is thinner than other Thinkpads, while still cramming in about twice the battery life of the X230T.
Compromises: The keyboard on the upper right changed again; the insert button has been deleted. It's not that I think I will miss the Insert key much, but the Home and End buttons have shifted to the right. It appears this is to space out the F-keys and make the Esc key bigger, but I had no issues with the old design. Other removals make sense in achievng the modern thin profile. The regular RJ45 network port has been dropped, and video output is mini-HDMI. Adapters are easy to attach for days when I am visiting customers still stuck in 2008. This is the first Thinkpad I have had with no detatchable battery. Hopefully, the battery holds charge after daily usage cycles as well as Apple products do, as replacements seem to be more complicated than Thinkpads used to be.
Overall reaction - Two thumb up: The new Yoga form factor is designed from the ground up for hybrid keyboard and tablet usage scenarios. There are no compromises typical of adapting a traditional laptop form factor. The power button, screen rotation lock, and power buttons are on the side, so they are accessible even in tablet mode. The stylus is on the corner, which seems like a more space efficient location. The screen is a beautiful 1920x1080, a lot of pixels for a 12" screen, and it responds to my finger as well as an iPad. Lenovo kept the TrackPoint and TrackPad combination that actually makes sense, not the awful minimalist one in the latest T series. I suppose it doesn't matter what Lenovo does with old designs as long as they do a good job on new ones like this. Honestly, I had already started ordering a Surface Pro 3, but was glad to find a solid Lenovo that works better for daily use.
Monday, 2nd of November, 2015
Good For: Promoting progress. The 500L drives about as different as it looks, and reflects some interesting new engineering that has been reserved for luxury cars. Under the hood, there is a 1.4L turbo engine that does away with the traditional throttle body valve, relying completely on the "MultiAir" variable value timing and lift to control air flow into the engine. The system offers better performance and superior efficiency. Drop the automatic transmission into drive or reverse and the first thing you notice is that there is no torque converter to apply creeping power at idle. You have to give it some gas and then it goes like a computer-operated manual transmission clutch. Gear ratios are as short as what you would expect on a manual transmission, since we can no longer leverage the torque converter at lower revs. The transmission's affinity for higher RPMs minimizes turbo lag and accentuates the nice exhaust note. It has good tendencies to be in the gear I would be in if I was operating a stick shifter, and I am always aware because this is the only car I know that displays which gear it is in, even in fully automatic mode.
Compromises: Typical tradeoffs to riding the bleeding edge apply, as we don't have much real world data on how the new MultiAir system holds up in long term reliability. MultiAir's hydraulic design is even a bit different from the electro-magnetic system that BMW has used for some time now. Opting for the manual transmission takes you off the edge a little, which is still the option I would choose. I am surprised automatic engine start-stop is not available, especially since the clutch transmission can accomodate this easier than the traditional automatic.
Overall reaction - Thumb up: At first glance, the idea of stretching the design of the 500 supermini to a tall 5-door contradicts its heritage. But the 500L considers the modern requirements for an economy car, and dares to promote new ideas in automotive engineering to the masses. Unlike other small cars the 500L accomodates 4 very comfortably. The rear seats are huge with recline and fore-aft adjustments to optimize cargo space behind it. Fiat even brings us convex segments to the side mirrors, which is already a safety requirement in countries like Belgium. At minimum, the 500L is a memorable driving experience. Even the one touch lane change turn signal blinks 5 times instead of the 3 that other cars do.
Saturday, 24th of October, 2015
The Myth of Basic Science - "... the linear dogma so prevalent in the world of science and politics—that science drives innovation, which drives commerce—is mostly wrong. It misunderstands where innovation comes from. Indeed, it generally gets it backward."
Friday, 23rd of October, 2015
Wednesday, 21st of October, 2015
Monday, 19th of October, 2015
Friday, 16th of October, 2015
Wednesday, 14th of October, 2015
Friday, 9th of October, 2015
Friday, 2nd of October, 2015
Good For: Laptop with disfunctional input devices - Lenovo has dropped the optical drive from the T-series to make it thinner, though it is not as thin as many other laptops these days. A touch screen is now available, but the screen still has a classic 2-hinge attachment preventing it from being used as a tablet. The 68+ battery bulges from the bottom, lifting the back for a more comfortable typing position. It will run the laptop for as long as I might want to work in one day: at least 12.5 hours with wi-fi on.
Compromises: The trackpad is completely ruined. All the buttons are gone, so if still use the trackpoint, your "buttons" are now just touch-sensitive zones defined inside the trackpad. It often does not respond correctly, regardless of whether you just touch the zone or press hard enough to get the tactile feedback of the entire trackpad working as a gigantic button. Lenovo went the wrong way with the keyboard, as well. Dedicated buttons for volume are gone, and the F-keys now serve as multimedia controls and the F-keys require using Fn.
Overall reaction: Two thumbs down: I have preferred the Thinkpad line of laptops for over a decade, but the only thing to like about the new T-series is the battery life. They even changed the power adapter, making it incompatible with my current practice of having Thinkpad power adapters all over the house to use regardless of what room I am working in. At least in an office, on a docking station, I don't have to even touch these input devices.
Good For: Jeep builds another car. I drove the Patriot last year, and Jeep has offered the mechanically identical Compass alongside the Patriot for their first run of a car-based SUV. The only noticeable differences inside and out between the two cars is the body styling. The same "Freedom Drive I" 4x4 system delivers the same, respectable off-road capabilities as the Patriot. Versatility also seems equivalent, and the Compass also has a deep compartment to accomodate a full sized spare.
Compromises: I liked the CVT's optimization of power, but Jeep has switched most trims to use a Hyundai-sourced 6-speed automatic. It's better than many other automatics, but I'm glad a manual transmission is also still available. None of these options mask the Jeep's fuel efficiency, which is worse than some larger 6-cylinder vehicles.
Overall reaction - None: I like the Jeep Patriot as a fun and affordable off-road capable vehicle. The Compass price points north of the Patriot, however, and is more expensive even when equipped with identical options.
Good For: A leap to the present. The 10th generation Impala finally grows back to a full sized platform, with proper rear legroom for the class. The Chevrolet flagship sedan is equipped with the usual GM gadgetry, and the LTZ trim I drove had blind spot monitoring and lane departure warnings. The two tone dashboard accentuated lines that made me feel like the driver and passenger were wrapped in individual cocoons. The Impala distinguishes itself as being the only car I've driven that reminds me of a Jaguar D-Type racer. The curvy dashboard was unique and didn't bother me, nor does it seem to be a problem for most buyers since the Impala jumps back up to the number one selling full sized car with this redesign.
Compromises: Everything I liked about the old Impala has been carved away. There is no front bench seat, and the 300hp V6 requires going up to a $31k trim level. The parking brake is an electronic switch. At one point there were too many cars moving around for the collision control system to process and it gave a false alarm and deactivated itself.
Overall reaction - Thumb down to the new definition of a full sized sedan. It takes the shape of a big car, but is less comfortable than it looks. Speaking of Jaguar, there are some reasonably preserved old XJ-12s out there that could eat the Impala for lunch...